CBS national telecast with Verne Lundquist (play-by-play), Gary Danielson (analysis), Tracy Wolfson (sideline), David Feherty (sideline), Craig Silver (producer) and Steve Milton (director).
ESPN America will take the television feed from CBS and reproduce in 66 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. For a list of countries that get ESPN America, go to: www.espnamerica.com.
IMG College Sports is the exclusive national rights-holder for Irish football radio broadcasts. IMG College manages, produces and syndicates the Irish national football radio network. Notre Dame games will be broadcast by Don Criqui (play-by-play), former Irish great Allen Pinkett (analysis) and Jeff Jeffers (sideline). This broadcast can be heard live on both SIRIUS and XM Satellite Radio (channel 129).
All Irish home games may be heard in South Bend on News & Sports Radio 96.1 FM, 960 AM WSBT and Sunny 101.5 FM.
The American Forces Network will also carry the CBS television feed. The AFN worldwide radio and television broadcast network serves American service men and women, Department of Defense and other U.S. government civilians and their families stationed at bases overseas, as well as U.S. Navy ships at sea. The game will be available in 175 countries and U.S. territories thanks to AFN.
Including Saturday's game with Navy, Notre Dame has played before 271 capacity crowds among its 448 road games (.605) since 1930. The Irish have actually played in front of sellout crowds in 244 of its previous 286 games (.853) overall, including 101 of its last 119 contests.
Notre Dame has played before 615 sellouts in 887 total games (.693) since 1930.
Notre Dame is receiving votes in the Associated Press poll and ranked No. 24 in the USA Today Coaches' poll. Navy is unranked in both the AP and coaches' polls.
Live in-game stats will be provided through CBSSports.com College GameTracker via UND.com.
Notre Dame and Navy will play for the 86th straight year on Saturday, making it the longest continuous intersectional rivalry in the country. The Irish hold a 72-12-1 (.853) edge in the series. Notre Dame has won 45 of the last 48 meetings in the series. (more on series history on pages 22-25 of PDF version of this notes package).
The Irish are 102-16-5 (.850) in season openers and have won 20 of their last 25.
Notre Dame, which failed to score first in six consecutive season openers (2003-08), hit pay dirt first in 2009 and 2010, but failed to do so in last season's defeat to USF.
Notre Dame has captured its last 13 season openers when scoring first, a span that dates back to the 1986 defeat to Michigan.
Notre Dame dropped both the 1985 and 1986 openers against the Wolverines, both times opening with the game's initial score.
Since 1958, the Irish are 32-3 (.914) when scoring first and 13-6 (.684) when the opponent scores first.
Here's a breakdown of each Notre Dame head coach's record in season openers (post 1913):
The 102 seasons Notre Dame has won its opener, the Irish went on to post winning records 93 times (91.2%), with four losing seasons and five .500 records.
The 16 seasons the Irish lost their opener, the Irish posted winning records seven times and a losing mark eight times (with one .500 season).
The five seasons Notre Dame registered a tie in its opener, the Irish had four winning records and one losing record.
NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL CELEBRATES 125 YEARS
The celebration of 125 years of Fighting Irish football (1887-2012) is well underway.
The University last spring introduced a special 125 logo that is being utilized throughout the year on all signage identifying elements of the campaign. The logo will be seen on sideline apparel worn by Irish coaches during 2012 home games and on the back of the Irish helmets for the Sept. 22 Notre Dame-Michigan game.
The "Strong and True" slogan-taken from the University's alma mater, "Notre Dame, Our Mother"-has been interwoven through various segments of the NDFB125 program.
Although the celebration lasts all fall, the Sept. 22 Notre Dame-Michigan game at Notre Dame Stadium (7:30 p.m. EDT on NBC Sports) will feature special recognition events based on Irish football history dating back to the first Notre Dame game in 1887 against Michigan. The Notre Dame-Michigan relationship qualifies as the original and oldest Football Bowl Subdivision rivalry. Former Irish head coach Ara Parseghian will take part in the coin toss for that game.
A Web site devoted to 125 years of Irish football has been created at http://125.nd.edu. It launched last spring, with three sample "Strong and True" moments featured. Beginning Aug. 27, 125 "Strong and True" moments will be released (one per day) via digital media, along with photo and video galleries. Some of those video moments will be featured at the Notre Dame Football Kickoff luncheons on the Fridays of home weekends.
Former Notre Dame players and fans have been and will be encouraged to engage and participate via the 125 site (as well as social media) by sharing stories, photos and videos of their "Strong and True" experiences via Facebook (facebook.com/ndfootball) and Twitter (@125ndfb). The official NDFB125 site also will feature memories provided by former Irish football players and others connected with the program from their Notre Dame football experiences.
Here are specifics of other elements of the 125-year celebration:
NDFB125 banners featuring the official logo will be on display at all Notre Dame Stadium gates, as well as at the media entrance and on the ticket windows.
The pennant-style flags that fly over Notre Dame Stadium and normally feature all the different opponent names from that season instead in 2012 will display the NDFB125 logo.
The light posts surrounding Notre Dame Stadium, in the Joyce and Stadium parking lots and also around the Guglielmino Athletics Complex and the LaBar Practice Complex fields will feature NDFB125 flags.
A 360-degree megapixel photo will be taken to commemorate the Sept. 22 Notre Dame-Michigan game. Fans will be able to interact with the image via the NDFB125 Web site, tag themselves and share with friends via social media.
The 2012 Official Notre Dame Football Yearbook features a 125-year Irish football time line, including more than 140 pages of all-new prose in a scrapbook format and more than 1,200 images. It will be published Aug. 24 and will be sold through the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore on the Notre Dame campus and via UND.com.
Each of the Notre Dame football game programs (including the version for the Notre Dame-Miami game in Chicago) features a specially-designed, eight-page pullout insert devoted to 125 years of Notre Dame football. Each insert is based on an essay dealing with an aspect of Notre Dame football history.
Covers of the football games programs feature original art by nationally-known sports artist Tim Cortes from Duluth, Minn. Cortes' work highlights the NDFB125 celebration and can be seen on all seven program covers (including the Solder Field game).
Game tickets for the 2012 home season (and the Oct. 6 Soldier Field game against Miami) include both the NDFB125 logo as well as throwback looks based on tickets from past seasons.
A one-hour television special providing a behind-the-scenes look at the Notre Dame football program will air at 2:30 p.m. EDT, on Oct. 13 (just prior to the Notre Dame-Stanford game) on NBC.
The Leprechaun Legion, the official student group liaison to the athletics department, is coordinating a celebration of student traditions over 125 years of Notre Dame football.
The Notre Dame Licensing Office has worked with a variety of its licensees to produce commercial products that include the NDFB125 logo--including everything from pins and pennants to apparel and mini-helmets.
The 2012 version of "The Shirt" features the NDFB125 logo below the back collar.
A special NDFB125 commemorative coin has been produced and is being utilized throughout the 2012 season for pre-game coin tosses. A smaller version is being produced for retail sale.
Legends of Notre Dame, located just south of Notre Dame Stadium, is displaying signage related to the celebration.
Centerplate, the University's official athletics concessionaire, has included the 125 logo on commemorative drink cups and popcorn boxes utilized throughout the 2012 football season.
The South Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau has joined in the celebration with a variety of programs--including streets renamed during the football season in both downtown South Bend and Mishawaka. Flags denoting NDFB125 will hang along Michigan Avenue in downtown South Bend all fall, as well as throughout downtown Mishawaka.
A large version of the official logo will appear throughout September on the side of the parking garage at Main and Colfax in downtown South Bend.
Hotels in the South Bend-Mishawaka area will feature commemorative room key cards featuring the NDFB125 logo all during the 2012 home season.
Notre Dame's University Relations department will create a commemorative poster featuring images from the Notre Dame-Michigan game weekend.
IRISH AIM TO CONTINUE QUARTERBACK'S FIRST-START MAGIC
Notre Dame sophomore Everett Golson will make his first career start on Sept. 1 against Navy. He will be the 21st signal caller to make his Irish starting debut since 1985. Notre Dame has gone 14-6 in those 20 games with a first-time starting quarterback under center.
Golson will become the first Irish signal caller to make his career and starting debut in a season opener away from Notre Dame Stadium since Ron Powlus in 1994. All Powlus did in his debut was throw for 291 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-12 rout of Northwestern.
From 1985-98, Notre Dame was victorious in nine straight games in which an Irish quarterback was making his first career start, including four coming in a season opener. Those openers were won by Rick Mirer (No. 1 Notre Dame def. No. 4 Michigan 28-24 in '90), Kevin McDougal (No. 7 Notre Dame def. Northwestern 27-12 in '93), Ron Powlus (No. 3 Notre Dame def. Northwestern 42-12 in '95) and Jarious Jackson (No. 22 Notre Dame def. No. 5 Michigan 36-20 in '98).
Notre Dame's nine-game, first-start streak ended in the 10-0 loss at USC on Nov. 28, 1998, when Eric Chappell started in place of the injured starter Jackson (then-freshman Arnaz Battle also played a large chunk of that game).
Following the 1998 meeting with USC, the Irish won three consecutive games under first-time signal callers. In fact, all three came during the same season, 2000, and occurred over the year's first five contests. Arnaz Battle (Notre Dame def. No. 24 Texas A&M, 24-10), Gary Godsey (Notre Dame def. Purdue, 23-21) and Matt LoVecchio (No. 25 Notre Dame def. Stanford, 20-14).
The Irish then dropped five straight contests with a first-time starting quarterback under center.
Notre Dame used a trio of first-time signal callers in 2007, including one in each of the first two games of the season. Demetrius Jones (Georgia Tech def. Notre Dame, 33-3), Jimmy Clausen (No. 14 Penn State def. Notre Dame, 31-10) and Evan Sharpley (No. 13 USC def. Notre Dame, 38-0) all failed to walk away with a victory.
Dayne Crist snapped that five-game skid with a victorious debut against Purdue on Sept. 4, 2010. Junior Tommy Rees made it two straight wins for the Irish with a first-time starter under center. Rees helped Notre Dame upend No. 15 Utah, 28-3, on Nov. 13, 2010.
Interestingly enough, the Irish are 9-2 when playing in Notre Dame Stadium, 4-4 when playing on the road and 1-0 when playing on a neutral field under a first-time starting quarterback (since 1985).
Here are the last 20 starting debut games by Irish signal callers.
Terry Andrysiak, sophomore (Notre Dame vs. Mississippi, Nov. 9, 1985, eighth game of season) ... win, 37-14 ... 4-of-8 passing for 60 yards and one touchdown ... two rushes for minus-seven yards.
Tony Rice, sophomore (No. 11 Notre Dame at Air Force, Oct. 17, 1987, fifth game of season) ... win, 35-14 ... 1-of-5 passing for 10 yards and one interception ... nine rushes for 70 yards and two touchdowns ... played due to Andrysiak's broken collarbone injury, in previous game at Pittsburgh.
Kent Graham, freshman (No. 9 Notre Dame vs. Boston College, Nov. 7, 1987, eighth game of season) ... win, 32-25 ... 6-of-8 passing for 11 yards and one interception ... three rushes for seven yards.
Rick Mirer, sophomore (No. 1 Notre Dame vs. No. 4 Michigan, Sept. 15, 1990, first game of season) ... win, 28-24 ... 14-of-23 passing for 165 yards, one touchdown and one interception ... 10 rushes for 12 yards and one touchdown.
Paul Failla, freshman (No. 8 Notre Dame at Purdue, Sept. 28, 1991, fourth game of season) ... win, 45-20 ... 1-of-1 passing for 10 yards ... two rushes for 11 yards ... started in place of Mirer due to team policy of "no practice, no start" (Mirer had pulled rib cartilage during the week) ... Mirer replaced Failla beginning with the second series.
Kevin McDougal, senior (No. 7 Notre Dame vs. Northwestern, Sept. 4, 1993, first game of season) ... win, 27-12 ... 6-of-8 passing for 135 yards ... five rushes for minus-16 yards.
Ron Powlus, sophomore (No. 3 Notre Dame at Northwestern, Sept. 3, 1994, first game of season) ... win, 42-15 ... 18-of-24 passing for 291 yards and four touchdowns ... two rushes for six yards.
Tom Krug, junior (No. 8 Notre Dame at Air Force, Nov. 18, 1995, 11th game of season) ... win, 44-14 ... 8-of-13 passing for 96 yards and one interception ... 3 rushes for 13 yards ... started due to Powlus' collarbone injury, in previous week versus Navy.
Jarious Jackson, senior (Notre Dame vs. No. 5 Michigan, Sept. 5, 1998, first game of season) ... win, 36-20 ... 4-of-10 passing for 96 yards, two touchdowns and one interception ... 16 rushes for 62 yards.
Eric Chappell, junior (No. 9 Notre Dame at USC, Nov. 28, 1998, 11th game of season) ... loss, 10-0 ... 0-of-3 passing and two interceptions ... seven rushes for 33 yards.
Arnaz Battle, junior (Notre Dame vs. No. 24 Texas A&M, Sept. 2, 2000, first game of season) ... win, 24-10 ... 10-of-16 passing for 133 yards ... 12 rushes for 50 yards.
Gary Godsey, sophomore (Notre Dame vs. Purdue, Sept. 16, 2000, third game of season) ... win, 23-21 ... 14-of-25 passing for 158 yards and one interception ... seven rushes for three yards and one touchdown.
Matt LoVecchio, freshman (No. 25 Notre Dame vs. Stanford, Oct. 7, 2000, fifth game of season) ... win, 20-14 ... 10-of-18 passing for 100 yards and two touchdowns ... 13 rushes for 36 yards and one touchdown.
Carlyle Holiday, sophomore (Notre Dame at Texas A&M, Sept. 29, 2001, third game of season) ... loss, 24-3 ... 6-of-13 passing for 73 yards and two interceptions ... 12 rushes for 23 yards.
Brady Quinn, freshman (Notre Dame at No. 22 Purdue, Sept. 27, 2003, fourth game of season) ... loss, 23-10 ... 29-of-59 passing for 297 yards, four interceptions and one touchdown ... eight rushes for 25 yards.
Demetrius Jones, sophomore (Notre Dame vs. Georgia Tech, Sept. 1, 2007, first game of season) ... loss, 33-3 ... 1-of-3 passing for four yards and two fumbles ... 12 rushes for 28 yards.
Jimmy Clausen, freshman (Notre Dame at No. 14 Penn State, Sept. 8, 2007, second game of season) ... loss, 31-10 ... 17-of-32 passing for 144 yards and one interception.
Evan Sharpley, sophomore (Notre Dame vs. No. 13 USC, Oct. 20, 2007, eighth game of season) ... loss, 38-0 ... 17-of-33 passing for 117 yards and one interception.
Dayne Crist, junior (Notre Dame vs. Purdue, Sept. 4, 2010, first game of season) ... win, 23-12 ... 19-of-26 passing for 205 yards and one touchdown ... nine rushes for six yards.
Tommy Rees, freshman (Notre Dame vs. No. 15 Utah, Nov. 13, 2010, 10th game of season) ... win, 28-3 ... 13-of-20 passing for 129 yards and three touchdowns.
A VICTORY OVER NAVY...
Gives Notre Dame a victory in their season opener for the sixth time in eight years.
Makes the Irish 103-16-5 (.851) all-time in season openers and 31-5-2 (.842) in season openers away from Notre Dame Stadium.
Would be the 21st victory in the last 26 season openers.
Improves Notre Dame to 129-56-4 (.693) all-time in the month of September, including 50-33-2 (.600) away from Notre Dame Stadium.
Improves Notre Dame to 73-12-1 (.855) in the all-time series with Navy.
Gives the Irish victories in 46 of the last 49 meetings with the Midshipmen.
Improves the Irish to 46-7-1 (.861) in the all-time series with the Midshipmen away Notre Dame Stadium.
Gives Notre Dame victories in 24 of the last 25 meetings with Navy away from Notre Dame Stadium.
Improves the Irish to 59-6 (.908) all-time against unranked Navy (post 1936).
Improves Notre Dame to 35-3 (.921) all-time against the unranked Midshipmen (post 1936) away Notre Dame Stadium.
Improves the Irish when ranked in the top 25 to 48-4-1 (.915) all-time against Navy (post 1936).
Improves the Irish when ranked in the top 25 to 42-2-0 (.955) all-time against unranked Navy (post 1936).
Improves Notre Dame's all-time record to 854-300-42 (.732).
Improves the all-time record for the Irish away from Notre Dame Stadium to 393-182-29 (.675).
Improves the all-time record for the Irish on neutral fields to 113-38-6 (.732).
Improves the Irish to 134-26-5 (.827) all-time against the Service Academies, including 88-16-5 (.830) away from Notre Dame Stadium and 69-12-4 (.835) on a neutral field.
Improves Kelly's record to 188-67-2 (.735) overall.
Improves Kelly's record to 69-32 (.683) in FBS games.
Improves Kelly's record to 60-20 (.750) since 2006.
Improves Kelly's record to 111-34 (.766) since 2001.
Improves Kelly's record to 2-1 (.667) all-time against Navy, including 1-1 (.500) away from Notre Dame Stadium.
Improves Kelly's record to 4-1 (.800) all-time against the Service Academies, including 2-1 (.500) away from Notre Dame Stadium.
Improves Kelly's record to 55-28 (.663) all-time in the month of September.
A DEFEAT TO NAVY...
Gives Notre Dame losses in consecutive season openers for the first time since 1985-86.
Makes the Irish 102-17-5 (.843) all-time in season openers and 30-6-2 (.816) in season openers away from Notre Dame Stadium.
Would be the sixth loss in the last 26 season openers.
Drops Notre Dame to 128-57-4 (.688) all-time in the month of September, including 49-34-2 (.588) away from Notre Dame Stadium.
Drops Notre Dame to 72-13-1 (.843) in the all-time series with Navy.
Gives the Irish losses in four of the last 49 meetings with the Midshipmen.
Drops the Irish to 45-8-1 (.843) in the all-time series with the Midshipmen away Notre Dame Stadium.
Gives Notre Dame losses in two of the last 25 meetings with Navy away from Notre Dame Stadium.
Drops the Irish to 58-7 (.892) all-time against unranked Navy (post 1936).
Drops Notre Dame to 34-4 (.895) all-time against the unranked Midshipmen (post 1936) away Notre Dame Stadium.
Drops the Irish when ranked in the top 25 to 47-5-1 (.896) all-time against Navy (post 1936).
Drops the Irish when ranked in the top 25 to 41-3-0 (.932) all-time against unranked Navy (post 1936).
Drops Notre Dame's all-time record to 853-301-42 (.731).
Drops the all-time record for the Irish away from Notre Dame Stadium to 392-183-29 (.673).
Drops the all-time record for the Irish on neutral fields to 112-39-6 (.732).
Drops the Irish to 133-27-5 (.821) all-time against the Service Academies, including 87-17-5 (.821) away from Notre Dame Stadium and 68-13-4 (.824) on a neutral field.
Drops Kelly's record to 187-68-2 (.732) overall.
Drops Kelly's record to 68-33 (.673) in FBS games.
Drops Kelly's record to 59-21 (.738) since 2006.
Drops Kelly's record to 110-35 (.759) since 2001.
Drops Kelly's record to 1-2 (.333) all-time against Navy, including 0-2 (.000) away from Notre Dame Stadium.
Drops Kelly's record to 3-2 (.600) all-time against the Service Academies, including 1-2 (.333) away from Notre Dame Stadium.
Drops Kelly's record to 54-29 (.651) all-time in the month of September.
Notre Dame has not played one school more than Navy over its 125-year history. The Irish and Midshipmen have met 85 straight years dating back to 1927, but never in series history have the two foes met in a season opener.
NOTRE DAME IN SEPTEMBER
Notre Dame is 128-56-4 (.691) all-time during the month.
The Irish are 49-33-2 (.595) in September games away from Notre Dame Stadium.
Notre Dame is 79-23-2 (.769) in September games at home.
The Irish are 45-31-2 (.590) in September road games.
Notre Dame is 4-2-0 (.667) in September neutral games.
The Irish are 68-23-1 (.745) in September games at Notre Dame Stadium.
Notre Dame has won two straight games in the month of September, which comes on the heels of a five-game losing streak in the month.
The Irish lost just one September game between 1899-1962. Notre Dame posted a 32-1-3 (.931) record over the span.
2012 NOTRE DAME OPPONENT UPDATE
Notre Dame faces five opponents that were ranked in the top 20 of the USA Today's preseason coaches poll, including USC (No. 3), Oklahoma (No. 4), Michigan (No. 8), Michigan State (No. 13) and Stanford (No. 18). Those same five foes are ranked among the top 25 of the preseason AP poll: USC (No. 1), Oklahoma (No. 4), Michigan (No. 8), Michigan State (No. 13) and Stanford (No. 21).
The slate is even more difficult when you consider that three of those meetings (USC, Oklahoma and Michigan State) will come on the road. Only one other team in college football plays at least three teams ranked among the preseason top 10.
Twenty-seven FBS teams won at least 10 games in 2011 and Notre Dame faces six of those squads, including three on the road.
The Irish have a long history of playing challenging schedules - with Notre Dame ranking (since the NCAA began this rating in 1977) first in 1978, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1995 and 2010; third in 1986, 1999, 2003; and fourth in 1979 and 1990. That makes for 11 top-four finishes in that category in the 35 years the NCAA has calculated these numbers.
ONLY THE BIG BOYS
Notre Dame is one of just three NCAA FBS programs to have not faced a non-FBS opponent since the current setup was established in 1978. The two other remaining schools that have yet to play a non-FBS opponent are USC and UCLA.
KEEP AN EYE ON THE UNUSUAL AGAINST NAVY
If history is any indication, expect the unexpected when Notre Dame takes on Navy. In seven of the past 16 meetings between the Irish and Midshipmen, one of the two teams has scored at least one touchdown on defense or special teams. This trend began with the 1996 game in Dublin, Ireland no less, when Notre Dame DE Renaldo Wynn scored on a 24-yard fumble return.
In 1999, Navy scored twice in an unorthodox manner, as Chris Oliver recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a touchdown and David Alexander scored on a 20-yard interception return. In 2000, Irish FS Tony Driver tied an NCAA record with two fumble returns for touchdowns, both coming less than seven minutes apart in the first quarter at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. In 2001, Notre Dame SS Gerome Sapp got his team going with a 39-yard fumble return for a touchdown early in the first quarter. In 2002, Irish CB Vontez Duff ran back a third-quarter kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown to help the Irish defeat the Midshipmen in Baltimore. In 2007, Navy LB Chris Kuhar-Pitters scooped up a fumble and rumbled 16 yards for a touchdown to give the Midshipmen a 28-21 lead. In 2008, Notre Dame senior LB Toryan Smith returned a blocked punt 14 yards for a touchdown.
WHO NEEDS A PUNTER?
Notre Dame has had little difficulty mounting up points (245) and yards (3,008) in its meetings with Navy the past seven seasons. The Irish have punted just once in each of the last two meetings (2010, 2011). In fact, Notre Dame was not forced to punt against the Midshipmen in either of the 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009 games.
Notre Dame punted three times in its 2008 victory over the Midshipmen. The Irish actually went 230 offensive plays against Navy between punts (2005-08).
In all, Notre Dame has run 491 plays over 74 offensive drives against Navy since 2005 and punted a total of just five times in those seven meetings.
TALE OF TWO DIFFERENT YEARS
Notre Dame was torched for 367 yards on 60 carries in the 2010 loss against Navy, but limited the Midshipmen to 196 yards on 50 carries in last season's victory.
Notre Dame's front-line defense, which was removed from last year's meeting with 13:38 left in the fourth quarter, limited Navy to just 127 yards on 38 carries (3.3/rush). The Midshipmen managed just 158 total yards against the Irish front-line defense.
Navy had four touchdown drives of 73 yards or longer in the 2010 matchup with the Irish. The Mids' longest drive in 2011 went for 59 yards on 12 plays and Notre Dame stopped Navy on downs.
The Irish forced a trio of Navy three and outs in 2011. Notre Dame had forced a total of two three and outs over the 2009 and 2010 meetings with the Midshipmen combined.
The Midshipmen entered the game averaging 325.14 rushing yards per game, which ranked third in the nation. Notre Dame allowed just 196 yards against Navy's potent triple-option attack, including one meaningless touchdown when the Irish reserves were on the field.
Notre Dame was victimized by two turnovers inside their own 27-yard line against Navy in 2011 that setup both of the Midshipmen touchdowns. Navy went 27 yards on six plays and 26 yards on two plays for touchdowns.
Navy faced a third down on 17 occasions against the Notre Dame defense and the Mids had to get less than five yards for a first down only once. The average distance to go for a first down was seven yards for Navy.
Approximately 23 percent of Navy's rushing yards came on its opening drive, which ended with a missed field goal from 47 yards. The Mids had seven rushes of 10 yards or more, but none longer than 15 yards.
Notre Dame implemented a 4-2-5 defensive alignment, which helped take away the fullback dive play that ripped the Irish defense for more than 200 yards in each of the last two games in the series. It also prevented the Midshipmen from picking up more than 15 yards on any single play during the game. Twenty-four of Navy's 50 rushes on the day went for two yards or less.
The 42-point win marked Notre Dame's largest margin of victory over Navy since winning 56-13 on Oct. 31, 1987.
The 56 points by the Irish were the most in the series since posting a 58-21 victory on Oct. 29, 1994.
It's also the fewest points Navy has scored in the series since the Irish handed Navy a 38-14 loss in Baltimore on Oct. 28, 2006.
Notre Dame had not had two running backs register multiple rushing TDs in the same game since Oct. 11, 2001 against West Virginia when Julius Jones and Tony Fisher each had a pair.
The four touchdown rushes in the first half alone of last year's meeting equaled Notre Dame's previous high for the season.
Notre Dame finished the game against Navy with seven rushing touchdowns - the most for the Irish since Sept. 26, 1992 against Purdue (also had seven rushing touchdowns). Notre Dame has not had more rushing touchdowns in a game since Nov. 6, 1965 when the Irish had nine rushing touchdowns in a 69-13 rout of Pittsburgh.
GREAT FOR TELEVISION
Notre Dame has appeared on national or regional television in 235 consecutive games entering this weekend.
The Irish have made 353 appearances on network television -- more than any other school and more than the next two combined.
Notre Dame has become accustomed to nailbiting finishes. The Irish have been involved in 21 games decided by seven points or less since the start of the 2009 campaign. In fact, 15 of the last 21 losses for the Irish have been decided by a touchdown or less, including seven by a field goal or less.
Notre Dame has played in 56 games in the 123-season history of the program where the winning points have occurred in overtime or the game's final minute of regulation. Amazingly, 11 have come in the past five years alone.
KELLY EXCELS WITH FIRST-TIMERS UNDER CENTER
Each of the last five times a Brian Kelly coached team has opened a game with a first-time starting quarterback, Kelly's team has proved victorious.
In his two years at Notre Dame, Brian Kelly has helped the Irish secure a 15-3 record when entering halftime with a lead and 14-3 mark when leading after three quarters.
Kelly is 159-11 in his coaching career when taking a lead into the fourth quarter and 95-5 since 2001. He owns a 147-13 record when taking a lead into halftime, including an 92-5 mark since 2001.
Kelly registered his first victory at Notre Dame when trailing at halftime at Wake Forest on Nov. 5. The Irish had lost their five previous games when trailing at intermission under Kelly.
Here are a couple other pretty remarkable win-loss records during Kelly's career:
Kelly is 12-2 coming off a bye week.
Kelly is 124-23 when scoring first.
Kelly is 150-23-1 when outrushing his opponent.
Kelly is 112-12 when his team wins the turnover battle.
Kelly is 35-14-2 in games decided by three points or less.
Kelly is 62-6 when his team gets a defensive or special teams touchdown.
Kelly is 54-14 in the month of November, including a 20-2 mark since 2006.
Kelly is 123-7 when his team scores 30 or more points, including a 72-1 mark with 40 or more points.
Kelly is 119-6-1 when his team allows 19 points or less.
Kelly is 135-36-1 coming off a victory.
Kelly coached teams owned a 57-game winning streak in games where they held their opponents to less than 20 points, which ended in the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl loss to Florida State (18-14). Kelly's previous such loss came on Dec. 8, 2001 when North Dakota edged Grand Valley State, 17-14, in the NCAA Division II title game.
Since 2001, Brian Kelly has totaled the third-most wins among all active FBS coaches. Kelly is 110-34 over the last 11 seasons and is tied with Frank Beamer of Virginia Tech. They trail only Bob Stoops (119-29) and Mack Brown (114-28).
Since 2006, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has compiled the fourth-most wins of any active NCAA FBS coach. Kelly has gone on to win 51 contests (51-15 overall) over that span. The only coaches ahead of Kelly in that time frame are Chris Peterson of Boise State (61), Gary Patterson of TCU (55) and Bob Stoops of Oklahoma (54).
Brian Kelly ranks as the fifth-most successful active NCAA FBS coach in winning percentage since 2007. Kelly's .789 winning percentage is bested only by Chris Peterson of Boise State (.906), Gary Patterson of TCU (.846), Kyle Whittingham of Utah (.808) and Nick Saban of Alabama (.796).
Brian Kelly ranks fifth and eighth among active NCAA FBS coach in both victories and winning percentage, respectively.
IRISH COME OUT OF HALFTIME LOCKER ROOM ON FIRE
Notre Dame outscored its opponents, 91-16, in the third quarter in 2011.
Florida State managed a field goal in the third quarter of its 2011 Champs Sports Bowl victory over the Irish. Notre Dame's defense had not allowed a third quarter point in its previous nine games - a span that dated back to the Pittsburgh contest on Sept. 24, 2011.
Notre Dame shut out each of its last five opponents (Navy, Wake Forest, Maryland, Boston College and Stanford) in the third quarter of the 2011 regular season and outscored them, 42-0.
Notre Dame held 11 of its 13 foes without an offensive score of any kind in the third quarter in 2011. Pittsburgh, USC and Florida State were the only teams to register any points against the Irish in the opening period of the second half. The Panthers collected a touchdown (missed the ensuing two-point conversion attempt) drive that was extended only after a Notre Dame roughing the kicker penalty and the Trojans had a 80-yard fumble return for a touchdown. The Seminoles converted a 42-yard field goal following an 87-yard kickoff return.
The 16 points allowed in the third quarter in 2011 was the lowest for Notre Dame in any quarter by a wide margin (53 in the first, 81 in the second and 119 in the fourth).
The 16 points surrendered the third quarter was the fewest allowed in any quarter for Notre Dame since 1988. That season, the Irish allowed 16 points in the opening quarter over the entire year.
NO TURNOVERS = VICTORIES
Notre Dame was victimized by turnovers in 2011. To no surprise, the Irish went 3-0 in games when they did not commit a turnover. In fact, Notre Dame is 6-0 under Brian Kelly when playing an entire game without a turnover.
Notre Dame has won its last seven games in which it failed to commit a turnover. The Irish have not lost a game without no turnovers since Oct. 17, 2009 when USC upended Notre Dame, 34-27.
Notre Dame is 21-4 in its last 25 games in which it failed to commit a turnover.
TURNOVERS BITE THE IRISH
Notre Dame finished 2011 with 29 turnovers. The 29 turnovers were the most by an Irish squad since 1999. Notre Dame committed at least three turnovers is six different games.
As if the 29 turnovers were not costly enough, nine occurred inside the opponents' 25-yard line. In fact, eight of the turnovers happened in the red zone, which led the FBS and six came inside its opponents' 10-yard line. Four of the six turnovers inside the 10-yard line came on a first down play as well.
Fifteen of Notre Dame's 29 turnovers came on Notre Dame's half of the field, including seven inside the Irish 20-yard line.
In all, 15 of the 29 turnovers happened in either the Irish offensive or defensive red zone.
Notre Dame ranked 73rd or worse in each of the four FBS turnovers categories. The Irish were tied for 112th in interceptions thrown (17), tied for 73rd in fumbles lost (12), tied for 110th in total turnovers (29) and 118th in turnover margin (-1.15).
Notre Dame had allowed just two fumble returns for touchdowns of 80 yards or longer just twice since 1966.
Leroy Keyes return a fumble for Purdue 96 yards for a touchdown (which remained the longest by a Notre Dame opponent until Kayvon Webster of USF equaled the mark in the 2011 season opener) and Julian Battle of Tennessee added an 80-yard touchdown return. In other words, that's two such touchdown returns in 45 years or one every couple decades.
The Irish surrendered two in the first seven games of 2011.
Notre Dame committed five turnovers in each of its first two games of 2011. Prior to the first two weeks of '11, the Irish had not committed five turnovers in a single game since Nov. 15, 2008 against Boston College.
Notre Dame had not gone consecutive games with five turnovers since `08.
Notre Dame committed five turnovers in the season-opening loss to USF in 2011. The Irish had not had five turnovers in a home contest since Sept. 16, 2006 against Michigan.
Notre Dame was minus-five in turnover margin for the first time since Nov. 8, 2008 against Boston College. The Irish had not been minus-five in the turnover margin at home since Nov. 5, 1983 against Pittsburgh (Notre Dame lost, 21-16). That's a span of 166 games over 28 years.
IRISH TOUGH TO BEAT WHEN WINNING THE RUSHING BATTLE
Notre Dame's 27-game winning streak when outrushing its opponent was snapped in the loss at Michigan on Sept. 10. The Irish had not lost a game when outrushing their foe since Dec. 28, 2004 when Notre Dame lost to Oregon State, 38-21, in the Insight Bowl.
Notre Dame outrushed eight of its opponents in 2011. The Irish have won 33 of their last 35 games when recording more rushing yards than their opponent.
DOUBLE CENTURY GROUND GAME
Notre Dame ran for 212 yards in its 45-21 rout of Maryland on Nov. 12. The Irish went 3-0 in 2011 when rushing for at least 200 yards.
Notre Dame has won eight consecutive games when it rushes for at least 200 yards. The Irish have not lost a game with more than 200 yards on the ground since Nov. 3, 2007 against Navy.
Notre Dame is 20-1 over the last 10 years (since the start of the 2002 season) when it gains 200 or more yards rushing.
OFFENSIVE LINE PAVES THE WAY
Notre Dame's offensive line is led by senior LT Zack Martin and graduate C Braxston Cave. Each are candidates for the prestigious Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy. Cave is also on the watch list for the Rimington Trophy, which is given to the top center in college football.
Martin, who has another year of eligibility after 2012, has started all 26 games for Notre Dame over the last two seasons. He has won the Guardian of the Year Award, presented by the Guardian Life Insurance Company, to the top Irish offensive lineman in each of the last two years.
In 2011, Martin had the highest grade of any offensive linemen and recorded the most snaps. He led the team in knockdown blocks, extra individual effort and allowed only one sack plus permitted the fewest defensive pressures. Martin was a key component to an offensive line that improved its rushing attack by 33.8 yards per game from 2010 to 2011.
Cave has played in 35 games during his career. He started 22 straight games before a foot injury in 2011 required surgery and forced him to miss the remainder of season. Prior to the setback, Cave started the first nine games at center and helped Notre Dame's offense average 173.6 rushing yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry. A Rimington Trophy candidate in each of the last two years, he also spearheaded an offensive line that allowed only five sacks in 324 pass attempts in the season's first nine games.
Senior LG Chris Watt will get the nod to the left of Cave. He has played in 26 consecutive games for the Irish and started every contest in 2011 at left guard after serving as a backup in 2010. Watt does have another season of eligibility after 2012.
Graduate RG Mike Golic, Jr. gives the Irish some experience and versatility on the right side of the line. He served the role of backup center in 2009 and 2010 and emerged in 2011 when Cave was lost for the year due to injury. He has appeared in 27 games over his career and can play either guard or center spot.
Junior RT Christian Lombard will make his first career start in the season opener against Navy. He served as an understudy to Taylor Dever in 2010 and 2011. Lombard did not play as a freshman and participated in 13 games last year, primarily on special teams and as a reserve right tackle.
The sophomore tandem of OT Nick Martin and OG Conor Hanratty will provide the Irish depth at either of the guard or tackle positions. Neither saw any game action in 2011.
Hanratty is the only current member of the Fighting Irish program to have attended the last meeting between Notre Dame and Navy in Ireland. Hanratty, who was three years old back in 1996, went to the game with his father, former Irish All-America quarterback Terry Hanratty.
Notre Dame was sacked only 17 times (or 1.31 per game) on 473 passes attempted or 490 actual pass attempts when including the pass plays that ultimately resulted in sacks in 2011. In other words, the Irish yielded a sack once out of every 27.8 pass attempts or just 3.47% of true pass attempts.
Notre Dame's offensive line put the "O" in October as the group allowed zero sacks in October last season. In fact, the Irish did not allow a sack in 195 consecutive pass attempts, spanning from the third quarter at Pittsburgh on Sept. 24 until the second quarter of the victory over Maryland on Nov. 12. The Terps did finish the contest with three sacks.
Notre Dame held seven of its opponents in 2011 without a sack, including USC (20th) and Michigan (29th) - both of whom ranked in the top 40 in the FBS in sacks/game. In fact, the Irish ranked 26th in the FBS in fewest sacks allowed despite having faced five teams that ranked among the top 20 in sacks/game.
Notre Dame held USC without a sack for the first time since the 1998 meeting.
Notre Dame was 26th in the FBS in overall sacks allowed (17) and sacks allowed per game (1.31).
Senior TE Tyler Eifert - a 2011 Mackey Award finalist - is the only tight end on the 2012 Maxwell Award Watch List, an award that goes to college football's player of the year. He is also on the watch list for the Lombardi and Mackey awards, and is the consensus preseason first-team All-American tight end.
Eifert led all Football Subdivision tight ends in receptions (63), receptions per game (4.84) and receiving yards (803) in 2011. He also ranked second in receiving yards per catch (12.74; minimum 4.33/game) and second in receiving yards per game (61.76).
Eifert finished 2011 with 63 receptions for 803 yards - both single-season school records for an Irish tight end.
Eifert broke a 34-year record at the position set by three-time All-America TE Ken MacAfee.
48 of Eifert's 63 receptions last season garnered the Irish a touchdown or first down.
20 of Eifert's 22 receptions last season on third down garnered the Irish a touchdown or first down.
Eifert had 19 receptions of 15 or more yards and 10 grabs of 20 or more yards in 2011.
Eifert had five touchdown receptions in 2011 and seven, now, for his career.
Eifert was the second Irish tight end with at least five touchdown catches in a single-season. Ken MacAfee owns the school record for touchdown receptions by a tight end with six in 1977.
Eifert has registered a career-best eight catches on three different occasions in 2011 - against Pittsburgh, Air Force and Maryland. He is tied with Kyle Rudolph (twice in 2010), John Carlson (2006), Anthony Fasano (2004) and Ken MacAfee (1977) for second most ever in a game by a Notre Dame tight end. The Irish single-game record is nine by MacAfee for 114 yards in a 31-24 victory at Purdue in 1977.
Eifert has 90 career catches for 1,155 yards. The 90 career grabs is tied with Kyle Rudolph (2008-10) for fourth on the all-time tight end list. His 1,155 yards rank second all-time in tight end school history.
Eifert needs just 10 receptions to become the third Notre Dame tight end in school history to reach 100 career catches. With 38 more grabs and 604 receiving yards, Eifert would rank first in career catches and receiving yards by an Irish tight end.
Eifert registered eight receptions, including four on the 11-play, 85-yard, go-ahead touchdown drive in the fourth quarter at Pittsburgh on Sept. 24, 2011. Eifert's four grabs totaled 34 yards. He also added a the two-point conversion reception.
Eifert earned the Mackey Tight End of the Week Award for his effort against Pittsburgh. He was honored with the same award following the 2010 Army game where Eifert caught four passes for 78 yards with one touchdown at Yankee Stadium
Below is an interesting comparison between Eifert's final receiving numbers in 2011 and the 12 all-time Mackey Award winners. Only two tight ends finished with more receptions, only five with more receiving touchdowns and only three with more receiving yards.
KOYACK, NIKLAS GIVE IRISH TWO MORE WEAPONS AT TIGHT END
The sophomore tandem of Ben Koyack and Troy Niklas will also see the field plenty in 2012. Koyack caught just one pass in 2011, but played in 12 games and started one. Niklas, on the other hand, is new to the position. He saw action in 12 games as a freshman at outside linebacker, but switched to tight end for spring drills in 2012. Niklas registered 20 tackles last year on defense and started at outside linebacker in Notre Dame's victory against No. 15 Michigan State. Nicknamed Hercules, Niklas provides incredible athleticism, size (6-7, 260) and physicality at the position.
The 2012 Irish wide receiving corps won't be the only group attempting to fill the void created by the graduation of standout Michael Floyd--as Notre Dame tight ends and running backs are expected to become greater receiving threats this year.
Junior TJ Jones, who was listed on the 2012 Biletnikoff watch list, was tied for third on the team in receptions (38 for 366, 3 TDs) in 2011 and, with Theo Riddick moving to running back this year, Jones ranks as the leading returning pass-catcher among wide receivers in 2012. u A concise route-runner, Jones has 61 total receptions in his first two seasons and has started 19 of 25 career games for the Irish.
Senior slot receiver Robby Toma (19 for 207, 1 TD) emerged late in 2011 after Riddick missed two games due to injury. A shifty player with reliable hands, Toma started the final four games and recorded 16 receptions for 172 yards over the final four games of 2011 (only Floyd and All-America tight end Tyler Eifert had more catches and yards over that stretch).
Graduate John Goodman will utilize his fifth season with the Irish after graduating from Notre Dame in May and will compete for the vacant wide receiver position. Goodman has started four games in his Notre Dame career and totaled 28 receptions for 315 yards and one TD.
Junior Daniel Smith and sophomore DaVaris Daniels are two other options at wide receiver. Smith, Notre Dame's biggest wideout at 6-feet-4, has been hampered by injuries in his Notre Dame career but has flashed signs of being a good playmaker when healthy. Daniels has the best vertical on the team at 38 inches and preserved a year of eligibility in 2011. An electric player in high school, Daniels showed flashes of his potential during spring practices and could be a favorite to eventually win the open receiver battle.
Three dynamic freshmen will all get an opportunity to compete for playing time in 2012. Chris Brown was the South Carolina state champion in triple jump while placing second in the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes plus the high jump and could be the fastest receiver on the team. Justin Ferguson recorded 21 receiving TDs over his final two seasons at Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines, Fla. Davonte' Neal was the Gatorade Arizona player of the year following his junior and senior seasons and could be a natural slot receiver for the Irish.
RUNNING BACK POSITION DEFINITE STRENGTH ENTERING 2012
Notre Dame's running backs arguably had the best season of any offensive position group last year, as they averaged 5.8 yards per carry and 153.2 rushing yards per game with 23 rushing TDs.
Senior Cierre Wood led the Irish with 1,186 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns in 2011. He became the 10th Notre Dame running back to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards in a season and was named to the Doak Walker Award watch list prior to 2012. Wood will miss the first two games of 2012 after being suspended for a violation of team rules.
Senior Theo Riddick moved from slot receiver to running back for the final two games of 2011 and sticks at that position entering the season opener. Riddick, who arrived at Notre Dame as a heralded running back, has rushed 54 times for 252 yards in his college career. He gained 36 yards on eight carries in the Champs Sports Bowl against Florida State.
Riddick was one of 49 players named to the watch list for the Paul Hornung Award, an award in its third year that honors the most versatile player in major college football. He caught 38 passes for 436 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games last season as a junior, adding 63 yards on 14 carries. He returned eight kickoffs for a total of 166 yards.
Sophomore George Atkinson III played a limited role on offense in his rookie season, as Atkinson rushed for 27 yards on nine carries with two TDs. However, Atkinson thrilled the Irish faithful in the 2012 Blue-Gold Spring Football Game by gaining 124 yards on 15 carries and added 54 yards on three pass receptions.
DEFENSE IS ABOUT POINTS, NOT YARDS
Notre Dame is one of 13 FBS teams that has allowed less than 21.0 points/game over each of the last two seasons.
Notre Dame's has allowed an average of 20.46 points/game over the last two seasons combined, which ranks as the 20th-best average over 2010-11 of any team in the FBS.
IRISH DEFENSE LEADS THE WAY
Notre Dame's defense has allowed two offensive touchdowns or less in 12 of its last 17 games.
Notre Dame has given up exactly nine rushing touchdowns over its last 18 games (dating back to the Tulsa game in 2010). Even more amazing, only three of those rushing touchdowns have come from an opposing running back (Jonathan Lee's eight-yard TD run for Air Force with the Irish leading 59-27 with 33 seconds left in the fourth quarter on Oct. 8, 2011, Josh Harris' two-yard run for Wake Forest in the second quarter on Nov. 5, 2011 and D.J. Adams' two-yard touchdown on Nov. 12, 2011 with the Irish leading Maryland, 45-14, with 37 seconds left).
USC's Mitch Mustain (2010) and Michigan's Denard Robinson each snuck in from one-yard out (Robinson's following a Wolverine fumble) in 2011. Tim Jefferson of Air Force had a three-yard scoring run on Oct. 8, 2011 and Jarvi Cummings of Navy had a 12-yard touchdown run with the Irish leading 49-7 in the fourth quarter in 2011. Maryland's signal caller C.J. Brown had a 24-yard touchdown run on Nov. 12, 2011 and Boston College quarterback Josh Bordner had a two-yard touchdown run on Nov. 19, 2011. Even crazier, eight of the last 10 rushing touchdowns against the Irish have come from quarterbacks (when you include Ricky Dobbs' two rushing touchdowns in the third quarter of the game against Notre Dame on Oct. 23, 2010).
Over the last 22 games, only four running backs have recorded a rushing touchdown against Notre Dame (Gee Gee Greene, Navy, 2010; Jon Lee, Air Force, 2011; Josh Harris, Wake Forest, 2011; D.J. Adams, Maryland, 2011).
Notre Dame surrendered 14 points or less in five games in 2011 - Michigan State (13), Pittsburgh (12), Purdue (10), Navy (14) and Boston College (14). The Irish had not limited that many opponents to 14 points or less in the same season since 2002 when Notre Dame surrendered 14 points or less in six games.
Notre Dame surrendered 13 points or less in three consecutive games - Michigan State (13), Pittsburgh (12) and Purdue (10). The Irish had not done that since 1989 when Notre Dame was the top-ranked team in college football. Notre Dame limited Pittsburgh (seven), Navy (zero) and SMU (six) all under 13 points.
Notre Dame's defense allowed only eight rushing touchdowns in 2011. Only four teams in the FBS allowed fewer rushing touchdowns than the Irish.
DEFENSIVE LINE FITS THE BILL
Notre Dame will open the 2012 season with arguably its best front line in recent memory. The trio of senior DE Kapron Lewis-Moore, junior NG Louis Nix III and sophomore DE Stephon Tuitt have combined to start 43 games over their careers.
Lewis-Moore is the elder statesmen of the trio. He has played in 32 games over his Notre Dame career and has started 29 contests, including all 13 in 2010 and each of the first seven in 2011 before a knee injury against USC ended his season. Lewis-Moore has totaled 140 career tackles, more than any other Irish defensive lineman, including 13.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. He has added three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and three pass breakups.
Lewis-Moore was on pace to lead the Irish defensive line in stops for the third straight season prior to the injury. He had tallied 32 tackles, including four for loss, and recorded one and a half sacks, two pass breakups and one forced fumble. Lewis-Moore collected a season-best seven tackles, including one and a half for loss and one-half sack, against USF in last season's lidlifter.
Nix III, the anchor of Notre Dame's defensive line, was a force at times in the middle of the Irish defense in 2011. He tied for seventh on the team - tops among defensive ends and nose guards - with 45 tackles last season. Nix III recorded 32 tackles over final seven games of season.
Tuitt is a physically-imposing defensive lineman that showed ability to play both defensive end and defensive tackle for the Irish as a freshman in 2011. He played in nine games and totaled 30 tackles with three tackles for loss and two sacks. Tuitt received third-team Freshman All-America honors from Phil Steele.
Both Nix III and Tuitt are using their second season of athletic eligibility in 2012.
Junior NG Kona Schwenke arguably was the biggest and most pleasant surprise for the Irish in spring drills. The Hawaii native moved from defensive end to nose guard in the spring and thrived during practices and the spring game. Schwenke pushed Nix III for the starting nod right up until the end of fall practice.
Joining Nix III and Schwenke as other options on the interior of the Irish defensive line are sophomore NG Tony Springmann and early-enrollee freshman DT Sheldon Day. Springmann did not see game action for Notre Dame in 2011. Day was runner-up for Mr. Football in Indiana last year, losing out to fellow early enrollee and quarterback Gunner Kiel.
For the second straight season, three of four starting Notre Dame linebackers return and the unit features more upperclassmen than any other position on defense.
The linebackers and the entire defense, for that matter are led by All-American senior ILB Manti Te'o. A finalist last year for the Butkus Trophy and Lott Award, Te'o led the Irish in tackles for a second-straight season with 128 stops while setting career highs of 13.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. After considering entering the NFL Draft, Te'o chose to return to school and was a preseason All-American by virtually every selector.
Senior ILB Dan Fox emerged from a pack of contenders to earn the starting inside linebacker job opposite Te'o last year and played well enough to start all 13 games. Fox, who held onto the job this fall, ranked sixth on the squad with 48 tackles and added two and a half tackles for loss and one sack.
Senior ILB Carlo Calabrese split time with Fox in 2011 and played especially well against the run. Only three players on the team have more career tackles than Calabrese's 97 stops.
Junior ILB Kendall Moore and sophomore ILB Jarrett Grace have received good reviews from the Irish coaching staff and provide quality depth at both inside linebacker positions.
At outside linebacker, junior Prince Shembo started eight of 12 games played in 2011; the only four games he didn't start came when the Irish opened with five defensive backs on the field. Shembo recorded 31 tackles with three and a half tackles for loss and two sacks in 2011--though he moves to the outside linebacker position owned by Darius Fleming the previous two seasons.
Sophomore OLB Ishaq Williams spent much of his first year with the Irish learning how to play outside linebacker after being one of the top defensive ends in the country as a high school senior. Standing 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, he has the physical attributes needed to compete at the highest of levels and will get a chance in his second season to become a larger contributor.
Sophomore OLB Ben Councell has tremendous potential and moves into the starting role with junior OLB Danny Spond out with migraines. He benefited from the extra snaps in fall practices and earned the starting nod. Sophomore Anthony Rabasa did not play as a freshman in 2011 but adds great depth to the position this year.
Romeo Okwara, a freshman from Charlotte, N.C., attended the same high school as Shembo and was a first-team all-state defensive player in 2011. He is extremely young (just turned 18) raw, but his frame (6-4, 239) and athleticism will likely help him see the field.
TE'O PACKS A HAWAIIAN PUNCH
Senior LB Manti Te'o has been tabbed a candidate for the Bednarik (top defensive player), Nagurski (top defensive player) Lombardi and Butkus Awards, as well as highlights just about every preseason All-America squad. He led the Irish with 128 tackles,13.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. He has collected 100 or more stops in each of the last two seasons. Te'o became the 10th player in Notre Dame history to record 300 tackles for a career and currently ranks eighth in school history with 324 tackles.
Walter Camp, Rivals, Phil Steele, SI.com and Associated Press named Te'o a second-team All-American. He was named Capital One Academic All-America second team. Te'o was also a finalist for the Butkus Award and Lott Trophy in 2011.
Te'o led the Irish in total tackles (128), solo stops (62), assisted tackles (66) and tackles on running plays (93).
Te'o ranked for tied for 24th in the FBS in tackles per game (9.85) and tied for 69th in tackles for loss (1.04/game). He ranked 24th in total tackles and 59th in solo stops.
Off the gridiron, Te'o has excelled in the classroom and in the community. He has earned a 3.296 cumulative grade-point average at Notre Dame and has volunteered dozens of hours at a local youth center. While he was in high school, the former Eagle Scout volunteered his time at Hawaii Special Olympics and with the Head Start preschool program.
Te'o eclipsed 10 or more tackles in nine of Notre Dame's 13 games in 2011. He has accomplished the feat 18 different times over his career. He led Notre Dame in tackles nine times in 2011 and 19 different times over his career.
Te'o has collected 324 tackles in his career, which ranks eighth in school history.
Te'o also ranks second in the FBS among active players in career tackles and fourth in tackles per game.
RUSSELL, A ROOKIE, STARTING AT CORNER (IN THE SEASON OPENER NO LESS)
Freshman CB KeiVarae Russell will be the first freshman ever at Notre Dame to start at cornerback in the opening game, which will leave quarterback as the only position group that never has had a freshman start the opener.
The previous closest freshman to start near a season opener was Stacey Toran in 1980 when he started the third game and the remaining nine for the Sugar Bowl team.
Russell will be the first Irish rookie to start at cornerback since Robert Blanton on Nov. 15, 2008 - ironically against Navy. Darrin Walls also started as a rookie in 2006. Both Blanton and Walls are now in the NFL - Blanton with the Minnesota Vikings and Walls with the Atlanta Falcons. Walls even played in the '06 opener at Georgia Tech and went up against now Detroit Lions' superstar Calvin Johnson, holding his own.
Freshmen Luther Bradley (1973), Todd Lyght (1987), Tom Carter (1990) and Bobby Taylor (1992) all were starters as freshmen (Bradley in every game), but it was at safety. Bradley, Lyght, Carter and Taylor later became All-America corners, with the first three first-round picks and Taylor a second-round selection after his junior year in 1994.
Another freshman starter at corner was Ivory Covington in the 1995 Fiesta Bowl against 10-1 Colorado.
Next to the offensive line, cornerback has been the most difficult spot for a freshman to win a starting spot. It took 23 years on the offensive line at Notre Dame before a freshman started (Mike Rosenthal in 1995). At corner it took seven years, with Indiana native Dave Duerson breaking the streak in 1979 with seven starts. That same year, another freshman, Rod Bone from New Mexico, also started twice at corner.
SECONDARY EXPERIENCED AT SAFETY, FAR FROM IT AT CORNER
The most inexperienced unit on the 2012 Fighting Irish football team, without question, is the secondary where senior safeties Jamoris Slaughter and Zeke Motta are the only players with starting experience. However, the entire group of defensive backs has combined to appear in 201 games at Notre Dame.
Slaughter, who graduated from Notre Dame in May, started 10 games in 2011 as a safety and also can be an outside linebacker in certain defensive packages. Always known for his ferocious tackles, Slaughter recorded a career-best 45 tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks last year.
Motta started seven games and has opened 15 contests in his Irish career. Only Kapron Lewis-Moore and Manti Te'o have more career stops among active Irish players than Motta's 102 tackles.
Farley has made the largest leap of any safety during fall practice. He is entering his first year at the position after playing wide receiver in his freshman year (entirely on the scout team as he did not see any game action).
McCarthy returns for a fifth year and has been primarily a special-teams player in his Notre Dame career. Salvi is a walk-on who was rewarded with a scholarship last spring. The hard-hitting safety packs even bigger punches in the boxing ring, as Salvi won the 188-pound title at the 2012 Bengal Bouts on Notre Dame's campus.
Hardy suffered a knee injury early in 2011 and missed the entire season while recovering.
Junior Austin Collinsworth was outstanding in spring ball and would have been in the rotation this season, but a shoulder injury suffered near the end of spring drills required surgery and Collinsworth will likely miss the 2012 season.
The Irish secondary was boosted with the addition of five freshmen safeties this fall. Chris Badger enrolled early in January 2010 and participated in Brian Kelly's first set of spring drills before Badger left Notre Dame for his Mormon mission. Nick Baratti played five positions in high school and was named a first-team all-state selection in Texas as a senior. Virginia's C.J. Prosise earned all-state honors as a junior and senior and Elijah Shumate played for the top-rated high school in the country last year (Don Bosco Prep in East Orange, N.J.) and was ranked as a top-10 defensive back last year. John Turner helped Cathedral High School in Indianapolis win the state championship last year and he was selected to the Indianapolis Star Super Team in 2011.
Shumate has been cross-training at cornerback as well.
Only five scholarship cornerbacks dotted the Irish roster at the start of training camp - and juniors Lo Wood and Bennett Jackson entered as the favorites to start. Jackson won the job, as did Wood, but Wood was lost for the season following a ruptured achilles tendon midway through fall practice.
Jackson has played in all 26 games over the last two years, though primarily on special teams. He came to Notre Dame as a wide receiver, but transition to corner back in the spring of 2011. Jackson has been one of the top special teams tacklers each of the last two seasons. He also helped Notre Dame's indoor track team win the 2012 BIG EAST Championship, competing in the 60-meter hurdles.
No player had a more meteoric rise through the Irish depth chat this fall than KeiVarae Russell. He was recruited to play running back, but moved to cornerback prior to the start of fall camp and excelled.
A track teammate of Jackson, sophomore Josh Atkinson placed fifth in the 60-meter dash and sixth in the 200 at the 2012 BIG EAST Indoor Championships and followed that up by placing fourth in the 100-meter dash and fifth in the 200-meter dash at the BIG EAST Outdoor Championships. Atkinson played in eight games in his freshman season, mostly on special teams.
Sophomore Jalen Brown is the tallest of Notre Dame's cornerbacks at 6-foot-1. He did not play as a freshman in 2011 but defended Michael Floyd in practice every day as a member of the scout team. Floyd actually thanked Brown in his speech after winning the team MVP award for the effort Brown gave every day in practice, helping make Floyd a better player.
BRINDZA OWNS QUITE THE LEG
Sophomore PK Kyle Brindza averaged 65.3 yards per kickoff on 71 attempts in 2011. He recorded 12 touchbacks, which is the most by an Irish kicker since the stat was recorded in 1998.
Brindza's 65.3 yards per kickoff average is the best since 1998 by a wide margin. The next best effort by an Irish kicker since '98 - David Ruffer's 64.3 yards per kickoff in 2010.
Senior PK Nick Tausch reclaimed the starting kicking job he had as a freshman in 2009 and hopes to continue the accurate kicking he displayed in his freshman season. As a rookie, Tausch set the Notre Dame record for most consecutive made field goals in a season when he converted 14 straight field goals. That record lasted only one season, though, as David Ruffer made 18 consecutive field goals in 2010.
TURK ENTERS FOURTH YEAR AS STARTING PUNTER
After a shaky start to the 2011 season, senior Ben Turk rebounded nicely to average 41.6 yards per punt over the last 11 games with 17 of 44 punts landing inside the 20 yard line. In his Notre Dame career, 54 of Turk's 147 career punts have landed inside the 20 and 52 of his punts have been fair caught.
BY GEORGE, IT'S ATKINSON AGAIN
Sophomore RB George Atkinson III equaled the school record for most kickoff returns for touchdown with two in 2011.
Atkinson III registered a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against USC on Oct. 22. The 96-yard return was the longest at Notre Dame Stadium since Julius Jones went 100 yards against Nebraska on Sept. 9, 2000. It also was the tied for the fifth-longest in Notre Dame Stadium history.
The kickoff return for a touchdown was Atkinson's second of the season. He was the first Irish player to have multiple kickoff returns for touchdowns in the same season since Allen Rossum in 1997.
Atkinson III was the second Notre Dame freshman to ever return two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same season. Raghib "Rocket" Ismail had a pair in 1988.
Atkinson III was the fourth FBS player in 2011 to register a pair of kickoff returns for touchdowns.
Atkinson III returned a kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown to give Notre Dame a 14-3 lead with 1:20 remaining in the first quarter against Michigan State on Sept. 17.
Atkinson III was the first Irish freshman to return a kickoff for a touchdown since Raghib "Rocket" Ismail had two kickoff returns for touchdown against Rice on Nov. 6, 1988. He was the first Notre Dame player to return a kickoff for a touchdown since Armando Allen Jr. raced 96 yards for a score against Hawai'i in the 2008 Hawai'i Bowl.
Atkinson III - the fourth Notre Dame rookie to ever return a kickoff for a touchdown - joined the company of running back Al Hunter (1973 Sugar Bowl victory versus Alabama), running back Allen Pinkett (1982 loss to Penn State) and Ismail (two against Rice in 1988). Hunter became Notre Dame's first 1,000-yard rusher, Pinkett is No. 2 on the school's all-time rushing chart and Ismail won the Walter Camp Award as a junior. Not a bad club to join.
Atkinson III recorded the first kickoff return for a touchdown by an Irish player at Notre Dame Stadium since Julius Jones against No. 1 Nebraska on Sept. 9, 2000 with his 89-yard kick return against Michigan State.
SIX FOOTBALL STUDENT-ATHLETES ENTER FIFTH YEAR
Six seniors on the University of Notre Dame football team were approved to return for a fifth year by the school's Faculty Board on Athletics.
The Golic family is one of just several father-son combinations who have played for Notre Dame represented on the 2012 Irish roster. Mike Sr. earned four monograms at Notre Dame from 1981-84, while Mike Jr. is a graduate C and Jake is a senior TE. In addition to their father, Mike and Jake's two uncles also played for the Irish. Bob was not only a four-year monogram winner from 1975-78, but he was a two-time All-American and helped the Irish to the 1977 National Title. Greg earned a pair of monograms in 1981 and 1983.
Other current Notre Dame players whose fathers also played for the Irish include junior WR TJ Jones (Andre, 1987-90) and sophomore OG Conor Hanratty (Terry, 1966-68).
In addition to the Golic brothers, the Irish 2012 roster has three other sets of brothers - Zack and Nick Martin, George III and Josh Atkinson as well as Chris and Will Salvi. Zack is a senior OT and Nick is a sophomore OT. George III is a sophomore RB and Josh is a sophomore CB. Chris is a senior S and Will is a senior CB.
No FBS schools have more than Notre Dame's four sets of brothers.
OFFICIAL NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL POSTGAME SHOW
The Official Notre Dame Football Postgame Show will again be broadcast live following every Notre Dame game in South Bend on News & Sports Radio 96.1 FM, 960 AM WSBT and Sunny 101.5 FM, and televised live on UND.com. The show is hosted by Jack Nolan and Irish All-Americans' Reggie Brooks and Mirko Jurkovic. The televised version of the show on UND.com also features game highlights.
OFFICIAL NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL TAILGATE SHOW
The IMG College Notre Dame Football Radio Network will again originate the Notre Dame Football Tailgate show from outside Legends of Notre Dame south of the Football Stadium beginning one hour before the kickoff of each Notre Dame home game. The show features live guests and is hosted by Jack Nolan and Alan Pinkett.
The Brian Kelly Radio Show begins live on Sept. 6 (the first show of the year will has been taped due to Notre Dame's travel for the Navy game and will air on Aug. 30) - and University of Notre Dame football fans can attend the show on the Notre Dame campus at Legends of Notre Dame, just south of Notre Dame Stadium. It will be telecast live on UND.com and broadcast live on News & Sports Radio 96.1 FM & 960 AM WSBT in South Bend, as well as WXNT-AM NewsTalk 1430 in Indianapolis.
Dates for the shows are Aug. 30; Sept. 6, 13 and 20; Oct. 4, 11, 18 and 25; Nov. 1, 8 and 15.
Hosted by Jack Nolan, the Brian Kelly Radio Show is a production of Notre Dame Sports Properties.
INSIDE NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL WITH Brian Kelly (TELEVISION SHOW)
Taped on Sunday afternoons, Inside Notre Dame Football will feature a recap of the week's contest, Notre Dame player features and more. The show can be seen locally Sunday evenings on WNDU-TV following the late local news. It will also re-air on WNDU-TV the following Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m. as well as 90 minutes prior to kickoff of Notre Dame home games. All shows can also be viewed on UND.com starting Monday of each week. Inside Notre Dame Football airs on a total of 25 affiliates nationwide reaching nearly 72 million households.